Top 10 Most Dangerous Things Drivers Do (and how to avoid them)
We've all been there. You're late to work, speeding a little, trying to do two things at once. Did you have that report that Jon needed? Better check real quick...
According to the AAA Foundation's 2011 Traffic Safety Culture Index, "Nearly one of every two Americans has been involved in a serious crash, has had a friend or relative seriously injured or killed in a crash, or both."
In order to change the number of Americans killed in car crashes every year, first we must look at ourselves and our own behavior. If you pledge to be a safe driver, you can inspire others to do the same, teach your children to do the right thing, and lower your own risk on the road.
Every once in a while, on the rare occasion, speeding might not hurt anybody. Driving over the speed limit to get someone to the hospital might be justified. Especially if you live in the country and the ambulance would take 2 hours to get there.
That being said, most cases where someone is speeding aren't emergencies. Some people speed because they're impatient- going slower adds travelling time. Another popularly cited reason is everyone else is doing it. I could give you a line about your friends jumping off a bridge and you following, but you probably don't have the time to listen to it.
Consider this: the faster you go, the more time it will take for you to stop. Even if a speeder is the most responsible driver in the world otherwise, if someone else makes a mistake, they still need to be able to avoid hitting them.
Tip: Get out of the house earlier to avoid being late, and if you are just accept it. A car accident will get you there even later.
9. Other passengers
Children yell and throw toys. Pets piddle, vomit or climb over the seat to sit in your lap. Friends turn up the radio and tell you you're driving like grandma. It's not hard to see how a dangerous situation could arise out of these scenarios.
Tip: Discuss car safety and rules before getting in the car. Restrain your animals and children properly.
Sandwiches are amazing, especially from that fast food place you just went to. I know, you haven't eaten in 6 hours and you're starved. The kids are waiting at home so there's no time to pull over and unwrap the paper from that greasy, mouthwatering delicacy. What's the harm?
Potentially, a lot. Unless you have an extra arm, (in which case- get back in the ocean because you're an octopus) eating in the car is not a good excuse to take your hands off the wheel. Fiddling with unwrapping a sandwich, steering, accelerating and seeing what the guy in front of you is doing...it's all just impossible to do at once.
Same goes for applying make up, reading directions, looking at billboards, writing down phone numbers, etc. If it's not driving, don't do it while your car is in drive.
Tip: To avoid driving while distracted, think ahead. Take care of things before starting your car. If you know you'll be in a situation where you'll be distracted, ask a friend in the passenger seat to handle typing in GPS coordinates or attending to the children in the back. Don't have any friends? Ask your imaginary one. Just kidding, simply pull over as soon as it's safe to do so.
7. Driving without a seatbelt
Driving with your seatbelt buckled could be the difference between keeping your face where it's always been, and your face being on the pavement in front of you. Seatbelts hold you in place during an accident which is a pretty big factor in saving your life. Wear one, and your organs will thank you for years to come.
Tip: Put your seatbelt on every time you get into a car. It will eventually become a habit.
6. Ignoring or misunderstanding traffic laws
Not using your turn signal may not seem like such a big deal to you, but to the person who is trying to decide whether or not you're turning or going straight, it's like playing Russian roulette. Except with cars.
Running red lights, ignoring or not understanding a road sign, or failing to yield can and have all caused serious accidents. Until we get big megaphones placed on top of our cars, turn signals, and using uniform traffic laws are the only way motorists can communicate their intent with one another.
TIp: There are a lot of signs and a lot of rules and sometimes new ones are added or old ones are changed. We could all use a refresher from time to time. If you're rusty on your driver's ed, reread that corny handbook they give out to new drivers. You can find it online at your states website, which should be something similar to yourstate.gov
5. Bad weather
Many people boast that their cars are like military tanks and can withstand any bad weather that comes their way. Too bad your body isn't also built like a tank. Even people in safe cars with five star ratings can die in high speed crashes.
If the roads are icy, if rain is obscuring your vision, or if snow is making it difficult to drive, admit that you need to be more careful. It will be safer for everyone that way.
Tip: If you find yourself driving in bad weather, slow down, stop and wait the storm out, or turn around and go back home.
4. Driving when drowsy, or under the influence of mind altering substances
Look, I'm not here to judge, but if your going to get smashed or baked, leave it at home, at the bar, or your friends house. You could spend a night in jail, pay horrendous fines, or worse.
Sometimes people are forced to go on very little sleep and there's very little they can do about it. Having a new infant in the house, working multiple shifts, or taking on too many responsibilities are all examples. It can be hard to tell when someone is too tired to drive, but a person can't respond very quickly if they're asleep at the wheel. Err on the side of caution and get someone else to take you.
Tip: Make a backup plan before you go out if you might be tired, tipsy or high later in the evening. Save up enough money for a cab home, ask a friend to pick you up, or crash where you are.
3. Road rage
Driving, especially in the city or during rush hour, can be a hectic affair. Stress makes people angry. This is understandable. Acting on this anger in an unsafe way? Not so much.
Passive aggressive behavior such as deliberately going slow in a fast lane, tailgating, cutting people off, or passing in an unsafe manner might make you feel better about being wronged on the road, but it puts you and others around you in danger. In the end, are you any better than the person who made you angry?
Road rage can have a domino effect, coloring the actions of everyone on the highway. Everyone is driving 'wrong,' going too fast or too slow. No one is spared by road rage.
Tip: Give people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they're on the phone with their dying relative. Maybe they cut in front of you because they honestly didn't see you. Maybe this person would sincerely apologize if given the chance. Take a deep breath. Count to ten. Try to laugh about it.
Go hands free instead.
2. Cell phones
Cell phones deserve a category all their own, near the top of the list. It might seem just a new fad to blame technology for bad driving, but research says otherwise. Cell phones are at least as bad as drinking and driving.
Innocent people being killed by distracted cell phone users behind the wheel of a car is not something to be taken lightly. What if it was your loved one?
Tip: If you are in the car with someone using a cell phone and driving- speak up about it. If you have a hard time putting your cell phone away on the road, there are available apps for smartphones that can help. If you need to speak with someone, pull over and do it in a safe place.
Sometimes people honestly don't care about their own safety or the safety of others. This is the most dangerous situation of all, but making excuses, arrogance, and feeling apathetic about road safety is common.
It's easy to forget that you're controlling a 2 ton piece of machinery and that a few mistakes can kill. Maybe you know the statistics and you've heard the reasons but if you don't feel a need to drive safely, no one can force you to.
Do you do some of the things on this list? We all make mistakes, and we're all human. It's never too late to change your driving habits for the better. Leave a comment, suggestion or tell others what you plan to do to change.